Baymax: You have been a good boy. Have a lollipop.
In BIG HERO 6, a group of unexpected and unlikely characters come together to combine their powers and fight for justice in the world. Wait. Haven’t I seen this movie already in some variation or another already this year? (GUARDIANS OF THE GALAXY?) I’m sure I’ve at least seen something similar to this in recent history. (THE AVENGERS? Any X-MEN movie?) Sure every one of these types of misfit superhero films adds its own distinct spin to the lore, and BIG HERO 6 does as well, but after a while, you can plot out the simple journey of reluctance to acceptance in these films without even trying. At times, it felt to me like BIG HERO 6, the first Disney film pulled from the archives of the Marvel universe it has direct access to anytime it wants, wasn’t really trying.
You know the specific journey I’m talking about, don’t you? The one where a group of individuals all have to come to separate realizations about how they are great on their own but even greater as a group? BIG HERO 6 doesn’t quite follow the same path to get to that same place but not because of anything groundbreaking. Rather, the reason here is that there are only two members of the Big Hero 6 worth paying any attention to. The rest of the gang are a distinctly diverse bunch, two girls, two boys, mixed races; all but one are scientists and each of them is reasonably awkward, socially speaking. Go figure; there are super smart people who can’t really hack it with other people who aren’t as smart. It’s practically The Big Bang Theory for kids. It’s not that I wanted an origin story for each of them, but they aren’t the least bit interesting, which makes a great deal of BIG HERO 6 feel like filler.
What saves the film from oblivion is the central relationship between our hero, Hiro (Ryan Potter) and a health robot named Baymax (Scott Adsit), as well as the depth found in the reason that brought them together in the first place. I can’t say what that is but suffice it to say that Hiro, a 13-year old genius who still hasn’t learned how to, uh, use his powers for good (and not for hustling illegal robot fights), is going through some serious loss. Baymax, a big, “poofy” marshmallow of a robot, the cutest robot since WALL-E but still, no WALL-E, is designed for one purpose and one purpose only, to help others heal. (Honestly, I think if everyone came home to a hug from Baymax at the end of every day, stress levels would drop across the planet pretty swiftly.) It is Baymax’s mission to ensure that Hiro heals, both physically and emotionally. When Hiro realizes this, he convinces Baymax that vengeance for his suffering would help make him feel better. Not knowing any better, his being a robot and all, Baymax agrees to help Hiro.
Hiro and Baymax have a complex relationship, which is the most impressive thing about BIG HERO 6. Their interaction is caring, tender and often quite funny too. (I will credit the film for what is maybe the best fist bumping I’ve ever seen.) They are fast chums and, even though Hiro’s intentions were not in the right place to begin with, embarking on his mission with Baymax, and the other four people in Big Hero 6, whatever their names are, really does help him heal without him realizing it. Their relationship is ultimately tested and by the time that happens, I was fully invested in its success, in the emotional connection between this precocious, broken young boy and a robot, that for all intents and purposes, doesn’t actually feel anything. BIG HERO 6 is almost undone again by an uneven and unconvincing “bad guy” type but, for all its flaws, the film still squeaks out a win by being just entertaining enough. If it weren’t for the genuine vulnerability and honesty that underlies the entire film though, BIG HERO 6 might have been a big zero instead.